By Associated Press and Marketwatch
Asian markets tumbled Friday on fears that the U.S. and China may not be as close to a trade deal as President Donald Trump had suggested. Selling was also fueled by worries about the global economy after alarming Chinese trade data.
China’s General Administration of Customs reported that exports fell 20.7% in February, compared to the prior year, reflecting weaker demand. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal expected the value of overseas shipments to drop by only 6%.
The Shanghai Composite index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -1.95% closed down 4.4%, logging its worst one-day percentage loss for the year and its worst session since October, while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed CN:399106 -0.31% dropped 3.8% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.84% lost 1.9%.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -1.06% was 2% lower, even after the government said its economy grew 1.9% in 2018’s fourth quarter from a year ago. This was better than its initial estimate of 1.4%. Stocks fell in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia.
Among individual stocks, Fast Retailing /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 -3.34% , Nintendo and Sony /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +1.39% fell in Tokyo trading. Hyundai Motor /zigman2/quotes/206684590/delayed KR:005380 -1.31% and SK Hynix /zigman2/quotes/206420319/delayed KR:000660 -0.24% slumped in Korea, while Taiwan Semiconductor /zigman2/quotes/207385621/delayed TW:2330 +1.01% dropped in Taiwan. Geely Automotive /zigman2/quotes/200716015/delayed HK:175 +3.90% , China Life Insurance /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 -6.70% and Tencent /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -2.93% were among the biggest decliners in Hong Kong. Oil Search /zigman2/quotes/204702973/delayed AU:OSH -4.15% and Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -0.69% fell in Australia.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the U.S. and China have come to a broad agreement that would result in the removal of some tariffs in both countries. This involves China buying more American goods and opening some of its markets further to foreign companies, it said.
But the report said negotiators haven’t locked down key details, like when the tariffs will be removed and how to ensure China holds up its end of the deal. It added, citing two people familiar with Beijing’s position, that Chinese officials were wary about the final terms due to Trump’s bent for last minute-changes.
Trump told reporters Wednesday that the negotiations were “moving along very nicely.” Last week, the U.S. shelved a tariff hike on $200 billion in Chinese goods to give officials time to work out a deal.
Investors were also focused on the global economy. The European Central Bank delayed its next interest rate hike and announced a new round of cheap loans for banks on Thursday. This was seen as an acknowledgement of weaker growth by the bank.
“The series of aggravating factors for growth concerns continues to gather, the latest from the eurozone, setting Asia markets up for synchronized decline into the end of the week,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.
Over on Wall Street, the broad S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.05% suffered its fourth straight loss on Thursday, falling 0.8% to 2,748.93. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.44% declined 0.8% to 25,473.23 and the Nasdaq composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.66% shed 1.1% to 7,421.46.
U.S. crude lost 36 cents to $56.30 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 44 cents to $56.66 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude , used to price international oils fell 46 cents to $65.84 a barrel in London. The contract rose 31 cents to settle at $66.30 per barrel on Thursday.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.2668% retreated to 111.06 yen from 111.57 yen late Thursday.